PERRYVILLE -- The New Madrid County Central Eagles continued their quest for a district title Friday night as they traveled to Perryville to take on the Pirates. In the end, the Eagles found themselves with better footing on the muddy field of Pirates Stadium, slipping past Perryville 20-0.
In what proved to be a defensive struggle, each team battled down-for-down playing for field position as it seemed nearly impossible to strand consecutive offensive plays on the slippery surface.
"When you come out here and play on a field in these conditions, it's all about field position," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley. "I thought we played rusty there at first, footing wasn't all that great but hey, they played in it too."
The first quarter resulted in a stalemate as each team had difficulties moving the ball down the field. However, in the second quarter the battle for field position started to lean in the favor of the Eagles.
After a deep NMCC punt, the Pirates started their drive backed up in their own red zone. Realizing that they had Perryville pinned against the wall, the Eagles unleashed their flocking defensive attack causing the Pirates to fumble the ball on their own 12 yard line.
With the ball finally knocking on the door step of somebody's end zone, NMCC couldn't wait to answer as they capitalized on the short field advantage after a 3-yard quarterback keeper by Dontre Jenkins. The Eagles took their first lead with 4:09 left to go in the second quarter and later headed into the locker rooms at halftime with a 6-0 lead.
"We were down there in terrible field position playing in a bunch of muck for most of the first half and they were playing good defense in it," said Pixley. "We pinned our backs against the wall there for awhile but our defense rose up to the challenge and came up big for us until we allowed ourselves a little better field position. They really played solid for us tonight, very solid."
Coming out in the third quarter it was still anybody's game as each team continued to battle it out on the sloppy field conditions. It wasn't until the Eagles defense stepped up again when NMCC really started to gain momentum.
With 5:17 left to go in third quarter, the NMCC defense swarmed quarterback Josh Perreault, knocking the ball lose. After taking a quick bounce, the ball landed in the waiting arms of Sedrick Hemphill who took it 34 yards to the end zone for the touchdown. After a successful two point conversion the Eagles made it a two possession game at 14-0.
"That was a big one right there (Hemphill's touchdown)," said Perryville head coach Rick Chastain. "Our quarterback, I don't know how it happened, lost the ball and they were able to pick it up and run it. After that you could just see our kid's heads just drop."
On NMCC next drive the offense finally started to click. After a diving 30-yard catch by Justin Beasley the Eagles set up comfortably inside the Pirates 10 yard line. A few plays later Jenkins connected with wide out Markell Long for a 5-yard strike to give NMCC the 20-0 lead with 54 seconds left to go in the third quarter.
"We didn't do a whole lot offensively against them until late there on that drive," said Pixley. "For two weeks in a row we played real physical defense. I really liked the way they came off the ball tonight."
This proved to be all the Eagles would need as their defense held Perryville scoreless in the final quarter.
"Defensively I thought our performance was pretty good but offensively we just didn't get the job done," said Chastain. "New Madrid came in with a good game plan and executed it well. Their kids were just wanted it a little more tonight."
"Perryville was one of the most physical teams we've played all year," said Pixley. "I've got to give their coaching staff a lot of credit, they came out well-
prepared. Their defense played well and I'm impressed with some of the kids."
Perryville 3-6 will host the Kennett Indians Thursday night as both teams look to end their season on a high note. On the other hand, the Eagles 7-1 will battle Dexter Thursday night at NMCC as the winner will be crowned district champion. Kickoffs will be launched at 7 p.m.